by Mary Koenig
What is it?
Vasalgel is a non-hormonal, long-acting, and reversible form of male birth control. Developed by the Parsemus Foundation — a nonprofit organization that works to develop low-cost medical approaches, Vasalgel is a one-time polymer injection based on a different technology called RISUG (reversible inhibition of sperm under guidance) developed in India over 15 years ago. Based on initial animal trials, Parsemus expects that Vasalgel will be as effective in preventing pregnancy as vasectomy.
How does it work?
Vasalgel works by physically blocking the vas deferens, the tube through which sperm pass on their way out of the body. The polymer can be flushed out with a second injection for anyone who wants to start having children.
Who can it benefit?
Obviously, Vasalgel could benefit men who have sex with women; who want to be in control of the birth control methods they use; desire a long-lasting, reversible, one-time method; or who worry about the effectiveness of other forms of birth control.
Vasalgel could also benefit women who have male sexual partners who cannot or would rather not use any of the forms of female contraception available due to their side effects and health impacts.
It could drastically reduce the number of unintended and unwanted pregnancies.
Vasalgel could also benefit society as a whole. Including men in the conversation about who controls or is responsible for birth control — a responsibility that has historically, for the most part, fallen on women’s shoulders only — could change the ways we think about . This could create more equitable relationships between men and women, and in society as a whole.
What are the risks?
Because of the way it works, Vasalgel does not protect against the transmission of STIs (sexually transmitted infections) like barrier methods do. Some doctors have expressed concern that men using Vasalgel may be less likely to also use a barrier method — like a condom or female condom — with new or untested partners, increasing their risk for STI.
When can we expect Vasalgel to be available?
The Parsemus Foundation aims to start human trials for Vasalgel next year and estimates that Vasalgel may be on the market as early as 2017.
Mary is a recent graduate of UNC-Chapel Hill and a program assistant with UNC Student Wellness. She is interested in health equity, social justice advocacy, and violence prevention initiatives. When she’s not working, she likes to play and listen to music, cook, and snuggle with her cats, Buffy and Giles.